Skip to main content

Full text of "The Gay Genius"

See other formats


i7i                            THE GAY GENIUS

by the family to write the tomb inscription for him. As a price, the
premier asked for this manuscript, but it was decided that the family
would give the premier only half of it, keeping the other half in the
family. Lu Yu recorded that he saw the manuscript all in Su Tungpo's
own handwriting, and that in case of corrections they were always
initialled by Su himself and marked with the stamp of the censorate#
We cannot be sure today that the book which has survived to this day
was based on the manuscript which Lu Yu saw, but it does give full
details of the court report, including Su Tungpo's own interpretations
of his verse.

Judgment of the trial seems to me to depend entirely on our inter-
pretation of the justness of Su Tungpo's criticism of the administration.
Chang Fangping, who along with Fan Chen was trying to save Su
Tungpo, summed up the case best by drawing a distinction between
honest criticism and malicious slander. While we today cannot but
regard these poems as expressions of honest criticism, the censors inter*
pre'ted them as malicious and wilful slander of the government and of
the Emperor. Chang Fangping pointed out that the BooJ^ of Songs,
edited by Confucius himself, was full of satire of the rulers of those
days, and that in a good government frank criticism was perfecdy
legitimate. On the other hand, the censors, if we can believe them,
were bursting with righteous indignation and deep distress at this
impudence and insult to their most beloved Emperor.

As Sudan says in his impeachment: "I have read Su Shih's recent
letter of thanks on his assumption of office at Huchow, containing satire
on current affairs. While the common people pass it from mouth t%
rnouth in admiration, all the loyal and righteous scholars are angered
and distressed. Since Your Majesty instituted the new and beautiful
laws, there have been many critics who disagreed with your policy,...
But there is none like Su Shih, who with malicious intent and a dis-
gruntled heart slanders Your Majesty beyond the rules of propriety of
a subject." Sudan went on to mention Su's poems of satire. "These
lines are aimed at the person of Your Majesty, and are the height of
impudence. . . . Your Majesty walks in the path of virtue, guides the
government, and raises scholars to benefit the world. Your heart is
truly that of Yao and Shun. At such a time appears Su Shih, backed
by a false, fortuitous reputation and useless abstruse learning. Yet hd
was given the post of a chief magistrate. I do not understand how Su
Shih could have conducted himself with such 'ungrateful insolence.
Besides," Sudan went on in his righteous anger, "the first principle in
human relationships is a sense of duty, and among the various relation-
ships none is more important than the duty of a subject towards his
raler. That Su Shih could have the heart to say such things against
Your Majesty shows that he has forgotten the duty of a subject to his